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La Provençale by HakeZou - FINISHED - Artesania Latina - 1/20 scale

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My first build was the Bon Retour. Everything on it is currently done except the rigging, but I'm waiting on replacement deadeyes, since I shattered one that had been poorly drilled. In the meantime, I read through the instruction book for La Provençale, which I had planned to be my second build. Discovering that the kit is much easier than the Bon Retour and that the instructions for La Provençale are much, much better, I decided (perhaps foolishly) to dive into the new kit that had been on deck. In particular, the rigging instructions are very detailed with clear diagrams. So, I've decided to set the Bon Retour off to the side for a few weeks while I work on La Provençale and learn more about rigging.


Being a francophile and a novice model ship builder, I'm particular drawn right now to these French fishing boats as I improve my skills. (I also have Artesania Latina's Saint-Malo kit waiting for me after I finish these two.) This one is tied to some particularly fond memories for me. A few years ago, I was doing research on the Côte d'Azur and was staying in a little fishing village called Beaulieu-sur-mer, right at the top end of the Saint-Jacques-Cap-Ferrat peninsula. By chance, I saw posters up for a Fête de Saint-Pierre and decided to attend. The celebration is organized annually by the local Catholic church to celebrate the feast day of Saint Peter, the patron saint of fishermen and sailors. After mass was celebrated (outdoors, on a plaza overlooking the harbor), the priest blessed the fishing boat that had been built for this Fête. Then several men from the congregation—those who had been chosen to build the boat that year—hoisted it onto their shoulders and we marched en masse to the harbor. While the men rigged the little fishing boat, the rest of us boarded a ferry and sailed out to the bay. The priest gave a prayer the local fire chief tossed a wreath into the sea, commemorating all of the local fishermen and sailors who had died in the previous year. When we returned to shore, everybody cheered on the group of men with the small fishing boat as they launched the craft for a three-day vigil. The boat, they told me, was designed on the model of the boats in Galilee...but upon seeing La Provençale, I immediately recognized in it that little craft from Beaulieu! Unfortunately, I apparently thought it was rude to take a photo during the mass, since I have no photos of that boat, otherwise I'd share.


And so, diving in. On Day 1, I opened up the box and inventoried the parts (sorry for the glare in the photo!), then read through the instructions a few times.








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Steps 1 and 2: building the frame and fitting the hull. The Provençale is built using a frame base. After sanding the frames down, I dry fit them to the frame base. There are nine ribs, numbers 3 through 10, along with the stem and stern posts.



After carefully aligning them using a square and dry fitting the hull, I attached the hull on top. With my previous kit, the Bon Retour, all of the parts were cut generously and needed some careful sanding to ensure a good fit. With this kit, however, the hull fit perfectly with no additional work. One more sign for me, along with the great instructions, that this is a better kit for the raw novice. The hull does need to curve a little bit, so to play it safe, I soaked it and pinned it in place overnight with rubber bands. The wood is still wet in the photos. It really seems to me like the numbers in the hull ought to sand out at some point, but they are etched pretty deeply by the laser. The bottom of the hull will be planked, so I made sure to put the numbers on that side, knowing they would be covered soon.




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I've worked on steps 3, 4, and 5 over the last few days. Step 3 involved sanding down the frame in preparation for planking the hull, which is step 4. After smoothing things out, I laid the first hull strake on each side. The hull is planked in sapelli wood on both the sides and the bottom The instructions provide clear measurements at the stempost, midpoint, and stern—10mm, 5mm, and 10mm from the bottom, respectively. After measuring, soaking, shaping, and glueing the strakes in place, I sanded off all of the excess that went beyond the bottom piece. 


You'll note in the previous pictures that I've marked out the placement for the next strakes (well, at this point I had forgotten to measure the marks for the midpoint in the first photo!). Throughout this step, the measurements in the instructions are very clear and easy to follow. This is a clinker hull, so these measurements allowed me to have a very precise amount of overlap from one strake to the next. Since the scale is so large and the real boat so small, there are only five strakes per side. The sanding comes later, so the stempost looks pretty raggedy. I trimmed the strakes at both the stempost and the stern, then did enough sanding to make the job easier later.


Step 5 involves planking the bottom and adding the keel. In the photos above, you might be able to make out the lines I pencilled in as guides for the seven strakes on the bottom. The curve is so gentle and slight that I didn't worry about soaking the strakes, I just went straight to glueing them into position, then used rubber bands to pin them down. Once those were set, I trimmed the strakes and did a lot of sanding. After sanding the strakes down to the shape of the bottom piece, I sanded the sides and bottom of the hull, as well as cleaning up the stempost and sternpost. Continuing step 5, I added the keel. The keel piece is actually about 4mm too short, so I centered it as best I could and am planning to add some 2x3x2 pieces from the strake used for the stempost and sternpost stiffeners. The rubber bands in these photos are holding the keel in place while the glue dries. The last part of step 5 will be removing the boat from the frame base!


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After removing the boat from the frame base at the end of step 5, step 6 focused on sanding and adding the stiffeners to the stempost and sternpost. The stempost is sanded to a rounded top, and the frame ribs are also rounded (though they'll soon be hidden by the gunwales). As I mentioned before the keel is a few millimeters short...I did an okay job with the bits I added to lengthen it all the way to the stempost and sternpost. Wish those looked a bit better, but they were a real pain to get them shaped as closely as I did and to glue them on. The first part of step 7 involves applying finish to the hull, inside and out. So, in the photos, there's a little bit of a sheen from that. The finish really brought out the gorgeous color of the sapelli!


While waiting for things to dry, I've looked ahead to see if there were any bits that I could prepare ahead of time. Because this kit doesn't make it easy to account for your resources, I'm waiting on most of those things. However, I did get the oars assembled. (They look better in person...one of them is tipped toward one side, making it look worse in the photo than in real life!). The oars consist of sapelli dowels cut to size for the oar shafts, precut pieces for the blades, and belaying pins with the bottoms cut off for the grip.



The sapelli dowels are a great example of why it's essential to look ahead in this kit. The four dowels here—each 90mm long—are cut from the two dowels that come in the kit, each of which is 200mm long. If you follow the instructions strictly in order, then before you come to the oars, you come to the mast top and the tips of the yard, which require one 15mm and two 20mm pieces of the same dowels. So, there will only be 5mm of scrap, and if you don't cut the mast top and the yard tips from different dowels, then you won't have the lengths necessary for the oars. Unfortunately, the parts list in the instruction book does not list the lengths of the pieces that need to be cut, making it necessary to carefully study the instructions in order to use your resources wisely.


Next steps: adding the gunwales and the bilge keelson.

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Steps 7 and 8 proved more interesting and problematic than they should have. Picking up where I left off on step 7, I first fit and shaped the gunwale covers and bilge keelson, then glued them into place. Because of the boat's vertical curve, these were trickier to shape than I would have hoped (though could probably be easier if your tool set is more plentiful than mine). I used 17 clothespins per gunwale cover; for the bilge keelson, I placed three 1oz bottles of paint on it, then set a wrench on them (the heaviest tool I had that fit the length; the rubber grip on the handles conveniently got thicker right where I needed it to in order to get the necessary curve). When I got to glueing the gunwale covers, I ran into my first problem: while clipping one of them into place, I managed to snap it into two pieces. I filled the break with glue and sanded a bit to get some sawdust mixed in. The next morning, once everything was set, the break was almost invisible (almost!). 


I then finished off step 7 by adding two battens to the inner frame; these are the bases for the benches. The measurements from the top of the battens to the top of the gunwale covers are clearly indicated, seemingly making placement very easy. (Yup, foreshadowing. I'll get back to that.) I then dove into step 8, adding the front and rear stanchions to the gunwale covers. I also rounded the edges of the gunwale covers and stanchions . I needed a bit of wood filler around the stempost and front stanchion...these photos were taken while that was drying, so things look a bit raggedy there.


The last part of step 8 is to attach the mast hole cover to the bilge keelson. This needs to line up with a hole above it, in the middle bench. So, I slid the mast through the bench and the cover. After applying glue to the cover, I aligned the bench in its spot and slid the cover down. Once it was in place and the glue was drying, I needed to insert three eyebolts into the smaller holes on the cover. Here was problem #2—the kit didn't include any eyebolts! I found some tips here on MSW and so made my own out of brass wire (actually, out of the pin shafts that had been scrapped when I made the rivets for the Bon Retour—glad I hung onto those!). Using pliers, I wrapped the wire around a 1mm drill bit to make the eye. I can't say that I made perfectly shaped eyebolts, but they are at least functional.


While fitting the mast cover, I had gotten my first hint of problem #3. While the glue was drying on the eyebolts, I looked ahead at step 9, which begins with the installation of five benches. They are all preformed, so I sanded off the laser char and then set them on their bases, just to see how they would look. That's when I discovered that the battens were several millimeters too high, despite following the measurements in the instructions! Working as carefully as I could, I used my Exacto knife to remove the battens. After scraping and sanding the dried glue off, I set about reinstalling them. This time, I began with the benches. Working one bench at a time, I taped a mini spirit level to it (see the photo below), found the correct height for the four benches that attached to the ribs of the frame, and then made a mark underneath, where the batten needed to be at that point. I dabbed glue onto my marks and the middle bench, then aligned those (using the mast again to ensure that it would fit later on). I worked outward from the middle bench, attaching the four benches and battens to the ribs. Then, I dabbed used a toothpick to apply glue between the battens and the remaining ribs, holding them in place with clothespins once everything was adjusted. Finally, I added the fifth bench, which is positioned between ribs and so is only attached to the battens. 


Next steps: finishing step 9 by adding strenghteners to the middle bench, belaying pins, and oar locks, then applying finish to everything added in this update.

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Despite some challenges for a novice like me, this boat has come together very quickly! Today I finished building the boat itself; all that remains is to do the rigging and to put the handles on the "fish boxes" (we called them lugs on my grandpa's tomato farm, but "fish boxes" is the description in the instructions). 


To finish off step 9, I added the strengtheners to the middle bench. This took a little more work than expected, since I had to sand them down to be flush with both the frame ribs and the bench; nothing bad, just a lot of going back and forth between sanding and checking the fit. Next, I popped the three belaying pins into their respective hole on the middle bench. Then, I constructed the oar locks. These were made by cutting 13mm pieces of a walnut strake, rounding the top ends, drilling a hole, and inserting short pieces of 1.5mm brass wire. Photos are an overhead shot of the whole boat at this stage and a detail of the middle, showing the different types of pieces added in this step.


Then it was on to step 10! This began with applynig finish to all of the parts added in the previous step. Once that was done, I glued the four cleats into place. Since these were metal and the finish was on, I discovered that PVA glue was useless here and, for the first time, successfully made use of CA glue. The two attached to the sides of the gunwale cover were particularly tricky, since the cover was rounded in an earlier step and there was less surface area to attach them to. Then I turned to the rudder. On my previous kit, I got the job done with the rudder, but can't say did it well. This time, I sought out more advice on fitting the rudder hinges; I couldn't find quite what I needed on MSW, but found some very practical advice here. The measurements from the instructions made no sense when I translated them onto the wood in front of me, so instead I just went with what looked right and fit best. Still not perfect, but I did the job more neatly and much more efficiently this time!


Finally, the last part of step 10—and the last part of the boat itself—was the mast. Without a lathe, I'm still working on how to make these conical, so the tapering at the top feels a bit dramatic to me. While the main shaft is from a basswood dowel, the top is cut from a smaller walnut dowel. I had a terrible time getting them to stay aligned when I was glueing them, so ended up wiping it all off and starting over. I drilled 1mm holes in each of them, a few millimeters deep (I couldn't go more then 2mm into the main shaft because I also needed to drill a hole through the main shaft for the rigging). Then I glued a pin in to strengthen the joint. Once that was installed, the boat was finished except for the rigging.


While waiting for glue and coats of finish to dry, I also finished up the extraneous bits of the kit: 4 oars and 2 fish boxes (which still need rope handles added). They're shown here with the two pre-made baskets that come in the kit.


Next steps: Since I've already assembled the yard, I just need to attach the lateen sail to the yard and run the rigging for both sails.

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While building the boat itself and all the extra equipment, I found the instructions for this kit wonderfully clear and helpful, though the indicated measurements didn't always pan out. But the rigging? Although the instructions were detailed and clear, they were not accurate. #49 is labeled on two different ropes, both of which are involved in raising the lateen sail (one runs from the yard to the double block on the left side of the map in the photo below; the other from the deck, through those blocks, to a belaying pin on the middle bench). The instructions were not easily applied to the boat in my hands, either, so I ended up relying on a combination of the photos in the instructions, videos of people rigging lateen sails, and my own intuition. In the end, I think I got it mostly right. I struggled a bit with the rope on right side of the mast in the photo. The triangular block is intended to hold the yard tight to the mast. I never did manage to get that as tight as I thought it should have been. I was also not satisfied with the reefing stays, which kept flying up above the yard; I ended up just cutting those off. I also ended up moving one of the cleats from the rounded side of the gunwale cover onto the top of the cover; before I gave up and moved it, I think it popped off five times while I was belaying a rope to it. 


However, the boat is finished! Here are the obligatory celebration shots. First, two profile shots from port: one featuring the entirety of the lateen sail and the other focusing more on the hull. 


Next, two shots looking down into the boat: first from port and then from starboard.




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  • 4 months later...

Thanks, Hugo! There aren't many build logs of this kit out there, so I hope you'll create one, too. I see we're walking some of the same paths, since my first build was also the Bon Retour! 

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  • 2 months later...

Hi MT,


My current build also uses lateen sails, so I've been continuing to look for good videos of how to rig them. There's a pretty recent video from a guy in Portugal that's better than anything I watched while building the Provençale. (I just discovered I can embed it in the post, so you'll find it below!) He has shot a bunch of videos in this boat. While this one includes an explanation of the rigging system, I've also found it helpful to just watch a bunch of his other videos to see the rigging in action. Hope this helps!





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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 7 months later...

Well done!

Building: 1:64 HMS Revenge (Victory Models plans)

1:64 Cat Esther (17th Century Dutch Merchant Ships)

On the building slip: 1:72 French Ironclad Magenta (original shipyard plans)


On hold: 1:98 Mantua HMS Victory (kit bash), 1:96 Shipyard HMS Mercury


Favorite finished builds:  1:60 Sampang Good Fortune (Amati plans), 1:200 Orel Ironclad Solferino, 1:72 Schooner Hannah (Hahn plans), 1:72 Privateer Prince de Neufchatel (Chapelle plans), Model Shipways Sultana, Heller La Reale, Encore USS Olympia


Goal: Become better than I was yesterday


"The hardest part is deciding to try." - me

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